4 Reasons Pastors Often Struggle In Their Ministry To Children
Serving the Lord as a pastor is unlike any other calling. Not more important than any other calling, just unlike any other. I can tell you firsthand that while pastors experience some of the greatest pains and sorrows one will ever know in this life, we also get to experience some of the greatest joys! The joy of seeing the lost come to saving faith in Christ. The witnessing of marriages that appeared broken beyond repair restored by the grace of God. The weekly blessing of leading God’s people in corporate worship of our great King and Savior. The ongoing gift of being able to preach and teach God’s Word as we seek to make disciples of Jesus. I could go on and on. There are so many joys we as pastors get to experience. And I am humbled and grateful for each of them.
Without question, one of the greatest joys and privileges any pastor gets to experience is coming alongside children as they grow and mature in Christ over many years. To play a role in their spiritual growth and formation from the time they learn to walk, through their elementary and teenage years, leading to that day when they graduate from high school, there is nothing quite like the role a pastor plays in shepherding these young souls. Gift and privilege. That is what it is for a pastor. A gift and a privilege.
Of course, while the opportunity for pastors to invest in and shepherd children and young people is right before them, we live in a day where a number of pastors, knowingly or unknowingly, have abdicated this responsibility the Lord has given us. Now, there are many different reasons why this is the case. Let me name just a few of them.
#1. Inadequate training and preparation.
While most seminaries do an excellent job equipping pastors well in the areas of theology, biblical studies, and preaching, very few require any courses focused on ministering to children and the important relationship a pastor is to have with the kids in their church. As a result, most pastors simply haven’t been trained in what it looks like to develop an intentional shepherding strategy for the children of their congregation.
#2. The rise of specialized children’s ministries.
Over the past several decades, we have seen massive growth in specialized children’s ministries in the church. Conferences, books and resources, seminary level degree programs, learning cohorts, practical training events of various kinds, all of these have aided in the growth of children’s ministry, including the hiring of many part-time or full-time children’s ministry workers in local churches. While there is much to be thankful for with this growing emphasis on children’s ministry, the reality is that children’s ministry workers and volunteers are not responsible to shepherd children all by themselves. Children need pastors in their life too. Sadly, in many church contexts, pastors have delegated their God-given shepherding role in the lives of children almost entirely to those leading the children’s ministry of the church. A better, more biblical strategy is needed in most congregations.
We get it. Pastors are busy. They are really busy. Between the constant flood of emails and phone calls that need to be responded to, weekly counseling sessions, sermons that need to be prepared, classes that need to be taught, meetings that need to be led, and personal and family relationships that need time and attention, among many other responsibilities, pastors are very busy. And the reality is that because pastors already carry a very heavy load, pursuing intentional, shepherding relationships with the children of their church can seem almost impossible. It takes real effort and sacrifice to prioritize a pastor’s ministry to kids.
One of the realities we don’t talk about enough is how many pastors feel a sense of insecurity when it comes to ministering to children. And there are many reasons for this. It could be that as we age, we feel “out of touch” with kids and that our ministry effectiveness with them is limited. For other pastors, especially those who have very gifted leaders already ministering effectively to the children of the congregation, a pastor can question whether they really “bring anything to the table” that would be helpful. And for still others, some pastors feel unqualified to step into the lives of children because they feel a sense of failure with their own children.
Whatever the source of insecurity might be, a pastor must remember that the grace of God in the Gospel is more than sufficient to give them what they need to carry out the shepherding ministry He has called them too. None of us are perfect. We have all failed in countless ways as parents, as pastors, as leaders. And yet this is the good news: In our failure and weakness, He is our strength. And praise the Lord, this will never change. We have all we need in Jesus.